Another Bix 7 in the Books

Bix 7 July 29th, 2017

Keeping with the sealed for freshness theme, Today’s post recounts an event that happened mere hours ago! 16.5 years ago I had to make a difficult decision to put a bow on my martial arts hobby. It was taking a toll on my body and at that point in my life there wasn’t enough recovery time to get healed before taking another round of injuries. Problem was how to fill the healthy athletics void that would leave – then my wife mentioned something called the Bix 7 race in Davenport IA. Soon after purchased some running shoes and jumped into a new adventure. 15 years ago practically to the date I completed my first Bix 7 and I was hooked. Guess what…

Bix 7 July 29th, 2017

I haven’t missed a Bix since that initial run – 15 years of toeing the line and taking on one of the toughest 7 miles course you can run in the area.  They even give you an anniversary pin if you look close at the swag picture at the beginning of the post.  I wasn’t the only family member testing their grit on the course.  Linda also took part in her 16th Bix race opting for the Quick Bix which is a 2 mile alternative to the full race.  She met up with a friend from her childhood who had recently started participating in the event.  My running friends were planning on running with me today.  Sung made it even though he has been struggling with some leg issues.  Unfortunately, got word right before the race that Ryan was not going to be able to make this year – not sure what issue there was, but I know it must have been disappointing having trained for a number of months for it.  As you can tell, the sun was shining on a cloud free day and the weatherman promised me a cool temp at race time.  That ended up being a slight exaggeration – they claimed 61, it felt hotter than that at the starting line and it only got hotter from there.  Admittedly, this was still better than we had feared being this far into Summer.

Bix 7 July 29th, 2017

Hit the jump to read how things turned out!

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The Deadly Skies

Amazing how fast this month went.  Seems like days ago when I was relaxing by the pool with a smugness born out of knowing I had successfully made it to the standard post quota for another month.  Add in  a healthy dose of training runs, a local birding run, an out of state birding vacation and an agility dog show we find ourselves right back in the fire trying to closing it out.  The good news is I have plenty of fodder to choose from these days having done some overtime in the digital darkroom.  If you thought the last post was fresh, this set of pictures still has the chemicals dripping off them.

Peregrine Falcon spotted in Bellevue Iowa Locks July 14th, 2017

First off, a bit of an apology.  This set of pictures is not my best work.  Even with The Beast (200-400mm) I was barely able to reach the subject.  The fact it is good enough to even tell it is a bird is amazing in itself.  However, I was not going to leave without getting something to verify my new +.5 encounter.  Hopefully, you are in agreement that the shots that were obtained are sufficient enough to ID this deadly feathered predator as a Peregrine Falcon.  Technically this isn’t the first time a Peregrine has appeared on the blog so giving myself just a .5 instead of a whole 1.  While closing out a Yellowstone trip back in February of 2016 (link here), I added a single shot of a bird and asked for verification of whether it was a juvenile Peregrine.  My brother Ron did provide feedback confirming the juvenile.  Now I officially have the adult version producing the full +1 yeah!

Peregrine Falcon spotted in Bellevue Iowa Locks July 14th, 2017

Hit the jump to read a bit more about this deadly bird

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Fly In Food

I’m back!  Sorry for the long delay in getting a wildlife related post out.  It isn’t that I haven’t been productive this month, just decided it was time to  give a little love to my loyal readers on my other blog.  Since those posts were neither furry nor feathered animal related, they were not replicated to this more narrowly focused social outlet.  In an effort to provide some compensation you get to experience something rather rare in my blogging world…
Tree Swallow Feeding, Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge, Goofy Ridge IL July 01, 2017

Ummm, definitely not rare in the sense this blog has a very heavy leaning to our feathered friends.  Nope, this oddity relates to “when” not “what” nor even “where”.  Typically the shots featured here are produced from a queue that currently spans over 2 years.  This a result of a horrible backlog that makes me break out in cold sweats every time the thought of that queue comes to mind.  No need to find a towel to dry off for this post! (keep telling my wife I need and intern ha)

Tree Swallow Feeding, Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge, Goofy Ridge IL July 01, 2017

Hit the jump to read more about this incredible birding experience!

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Steamed Rolled Over

My loyal readers of my wildlife blog are probably wondering where I’ve been this month, this being my third non-wildlife related post in a row!  I’ll take care of that in a bit, but right now the focus is getting the running queue drawn down before the Bix7 which is less than a week away.  This post is a bit ominous when in comes to that upcoming run.
Steamboat 15K Peoria IL, June 17th, 2017

The third run of the season is typically the Steamboat Classic – this year was no different.  Having had good luck on the April races, things were looking up for this June race.  However, there is one aspect of the Steamboat that the Illini races did not have.  That difference is spelled out right there in the name S T E A M.  One might be under the impression that it is named in honor of the paddle boats that ruled the Illinois River.  I, on the other, hand believe it is named because that is what comes rolling off your body long before that race is finished.  There were false rumors from the often wrong Weather.com app that it might be bearable this year – WRONG AGAIN.

Steamboat 15K Peoria IL, June 17th, 2017

Hit the jump to see how this race turned out (hint, not well)

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Illini Cool Complete

Greetings everyone.  Going to try and get a post out, but the campground I am currently at has horrible WiFi – so not sure how this is going to go.  At worst case I’ll have the post written and will upload whenever we find a spot with sufficient connectivity.  Seemed appropriate to go ahead and finish up the two parter started with the previous post – yep, the second part of the Illini Marathon I-Half Challenge.  Unfortunately, only the easy part was completed the night before – the big race was the following Saturday morning with the holding of the 150th Anniversary of my Alma Mater.  I forgot to mention that in the previous post, but you might have been wondering what that extra bling was dangling down from the finisher’s medal.  They added a mini 150th medal on to the 5K AND the Half Marathon medals.  You can see it right side up in the half medal on the left side of the swag shot below.
Illini Half I-Challenge - Half Marathon and 5K April 20, 21st 2017

Now that is the cherry on top for a medal whore like myself (Linda’s term, not mine hehehe).  Not only do you get THREE medals for finishing both races, two of them have extra bling – score!  I kind of left you hanging in the last post wondering how things were going to turn out.  If you recall, my 5K plan didn’t go as planned due to perfect running conditions and a snafu with locating Linda after the race that ultimately left me in pain far surpassing anything a hard night of burpees has ever left me with.  That Friday night was rough.  Lather on some Bio-Freeze, Tiger Tail the hell out of the calves and upper thighs hoping to break up the knots enough to be able to bend the legs and hopefully hold my weight.  This process was repeated time and time again until standing didn’t bring tears to my eyes.  One more hit of Tiger Balm on the last remaining spots before getting some shut eye – it was going to be an early morning.  4:50am alarm woke me to the brisk morning and good news on the legs front.  They were still stiffer than ideal and tolerable levels of pain, yet no reason to complain too much.  The body is an amazing healer as long as you keep it well oiled.

Illini Half I-Challenge - Half Marathon and 5K April 20, 21st 2017

Hit the jump to read more about how the race went!

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Illini Cool – 5K

It’s race time everyone!  Umm, well, actually it has been race time for a while now.  Been a little busy and the running posts tend to take a healthy bit of time getting the race day pictures processed, getting the swag photographed and then tracking down the official results.  Because of that, the race posts tend to be pushed down the queue.  Normally I’m a race or two behind but rarely 3 races, yet that is exactly where I am at ugh!  Having just completed a training run for a race at the end of the month thought it would be prudent of me to get some of these popped off the queue or face falling 4 behind which is complete insanity.  So, without further delay say it with me I-L-L

Illini I-Challenge April 20-21st 2017, Champaign IL

If you didn’t immediately respond with I-N-I then you did not attend my Alma Mater and for that I am sorry hehehe.  Why a shot of my stadium’s scoreboard?…well, that happens to be where the first race of the season occurs.  Each year most of the way through the month of April a hardy band of runners head to Champaign IL to test their meddle against the racing gods… and more ominous, the weather gods.  They call this race the Illini Marathon and for those of us who like a little spice with our athletic competitions, the Illini I-Challenge.

Illini I-Challenge April 20-21st 2017, Champaign IL

Hit he jump to see how this race turns out

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Obviously a Woodhouse

Let’s do this!  I’ve had a pretty full day starting early and ending late packed in between with a healthy dose of exercise, yard work and some bonus time out on the range.  Now I am just sitting here catching my breath and thought what the hay, why not use some of that down time to take some future stress off.  Yep, the June monthly quota is finally conquered as of this post (please, hold your applause until the end).  How about we close this out with a … wait for it … wait for it… a bird post!

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay shot in Red Rocks Ampitheatre in May 2014

No big surprise there eh?  This particular post has a bit of a twist to it.  On one hand this Western Scrub-Jay has already been featured on here on the blog back in September 2014 (link here).  That would imply that this is not a new check in my North American Birding Life List.   However, thanks to a decision, this particular specimen has a nuance about it.  To set the stage, this Jay was shot at the Red Rocks Ampitheatre in Morrison, Colorado.  I have had the privilege of birding there a couple of times now and both times left quite an impression.

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay shot in Red Rocks Ampitheatre in May 2014

Hit the jump to learn the secret about this bird!

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Canvasing Kentucky

It’s coming down to the wire, but with this post, I am pretty sure I can hit the quota for another month.  Would hate to end a long multi-year streak because of Halloween decorations – wait a minute, that might actually be a valid reason seeing as how I was spending most of the night trying to learn how to make molds.  It is obvious to me that some key steps were left out of all the YouTube videos I was watching before trying it out myself.  As always, I’ll leave the details for a future project post (foreshadowing… after some trial and error I’ve now been able to fill in the missing details and a second attempt turned out very nice!).  Luckily, sleep isn’t that big of a deal for me so with the Halloween work out of the way, I can still bring you tonight’s featured duck…

Canvasback shot around Kentucky Dam April 2015

That there is what you call a Canvasback Duck.  This particular specimen was found near the Kentucky Dam while on a trip we took down there to do a little birding back in April 2015.  In case you are wondering, it is a well known fact in the photography world that you have to let images sit in the chemicals for at least two years before they will develop.  Talk about the disappointment when you wait that long, come back into the darkroom and find out your chemical balance was off – back to the drawing board – another 2 years and fingers crossed you have something good enough to post on your blog.  Admittedly, this set is a bit soft around the edges, but still better (mainly because they are closer) than the previous time I had a post on this duck (link here). If I recall correctly, that other post was from Henderson Bird Viewing Area in Henderson Nevada – If you  call yourself a birder and have not been there yet – shame on you hehehe.  As mentioned, this one was a little closer to home.  The Canvasbacks are pretty easy to identify in the field.  Although their coloring will pretty much lead you right to them, it is really their profile which makes them stand out.  If you look from the side they have a downward sloping profile from the crest of their head to the end of their rather large snoz.  You might have a tendency to get them mixed up with the Redheads due to the similar color palette, but if you pay close attention to the bill you will notice that the Redheads have a brighter grey bill that looks like they were used for writing instead of quills back in the day (they have a black tip),

Canvasback shot around Kentucky Dam April 2015

The Canvasback pretty much has all of Central America up through Northern Canada covered somewhere during the seasonal migrations.  Being April guessing this one was doing some final fishing to build up energy for the trek up North.  Not a lot I can really tell you about this duck due to my go to reference site (Cornell) being pretty light on the details.  Apparently they breed in prairie potholes – we prefer to call them muddles in these here parts.  They are clearly on the larger end of the diving ducks.  They also carry a least concern conservation classification – yea!

Canvasback shot around Kentucky Dam April 2015

Only other tidbit is they got their name thanks to being the preferred seat covering for old Model T’s.  Luckily, modern society found the fine rich feeling Corinthian Leather (Ze Plane, Ze Plane! – for the record, if you get that reference you are old)….. What.. you want me to check the accuracy of that?  Hmmm… oh wait, my bad, they were given the Canvasback moniker from their preferred food during the nonbreeding season – the wild celery buds and rhizomes.  You know you preferred my definition better .. come on … there you go.  Just to prevent any future uncomfortable moments  (for you!), I probably wouldn’t base your entire theme or post graduate thesis on the contents of this blog.  Somewhere along the line information in my head may get slightly distorted.  My brother knows I blame my grade school for filling my head with lies (take for example the Brontasaurus and who knows what the hell Pluto is these days).

All I have for you today – hope you enjoyed this “purdy” duck.

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The Loony Bin

Hope you enjoyed the previous post on that creepy bug.  After that short break from the aviary features we are going to bring you right back to regularly scheduled programming.  That’s right, back to those feathered wonders we group into the category of waterbirds … because they are birds and often found in water, which is really just a clever way of not having to tell you if it is a Duck or not – Duck being what we call something two away from a Goose (okay, lame joke, but admission here is free).  Since no one is apparently laughing at my joke, let’s get to today’s feature.

Common Loon shot around Kentucky Lake - April 2015

I find these particular birds intriguing from the dead on perspective.  If you are not a birder, it is well known that most birds look like a total dork from head on – don’t believe me, look at a Green Heron from that perspective and you will immediately know what I am referring to.  Pretty sure the Loon is more appealing due to the eyes being more forward on the head and the fatter neckline give it a more beefy feel.  This specimen is from the Common Loon family and was spotted in a small river in Kentucky back in April 2015.  We were doing some birding in and around the Kentucky Dam area and found a nice trail that followed the river.

Common Loon shot around Kentucky Lake - April 2015

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of this sleek looking bird.

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Sorry Katy, You Ugly

I’ve been hitting you with an unhealthy dose of bird posts as of late … and for that I’m not sorry – ha.  Just kidding, I know there are loyal readers out there that prefer the non-aviary topics (and I know that from all the hate mail I get when their tolerance is crested).  The good news is I have tried to remedy that with a quick post on … wait for it… something that doesn’t have feathers.
Shield-Backed Katydid shot in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park back in July 2014

Something tells met some of you may have just taken a few steps back from the monitor just then.  I cannot lie, I am having to force myself to stay at the keyboard just to get through this post.  This bug basically looks straight out of a horror movie and it creeps me out staring just at the picture.  It took incredible willpower to stand there in person looking at it through the camera eyepiece.  Guessing you are wondering what this thing is and will not settle for the answer “It’s a bug!”.  Scouring the Internet (a fancy and technically deceiving phrase for basically going straight to Google), I came up empty.  By the way, just in case you get an inkling to do some Google oogling under the phrase “creepy looking bug” – DO NOT DO IT – you will not be able to go outside for a month!  Luckily,  my brother Ron had better luck and was able to successfully identify “the bug”.  This ladies and gentlemen is referred to as a  Shield-Backed Katydid. Coincidentally, that happens to be Latin for “creepy ass bug”.
Shield-Backed Katydid shot in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park back in July 2014

This specimen was found while chasing waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  We were out there in July 2014 on our way to North Carolina.  Unable to remember the name of the actual waterfall Linda wanted to shoot, but if recalling correctly it was not that far from their extremely impressive visitor center. Do not pass checking that out if you are in the area.  While Linda dials in her silky waterfall shots, I’m generally exploring the area for birds (not a stretch there) and if that comes up empty, I transition to dragonflies, then bugs (then cool fungi if you are curious).  There are zero birds in the Smokies and the dragons were nowhere to be found.  Simply looked down at the railing (don’t tell Linda, but right behind where she was standing) this Katydid was hanging out likely annoyed we were disturbing its hunting grounds.  Sorry for the limited shots… was it mentioned earlier this bug creeps me out!?!

A quick fact before I leave you.  The Shield-Backed Katydid were given their moniker for the enlarged dorsal area of the prothorax (apparently also called a pronotum)  which extends down to the abdomen.  All I got for you tonight, hope you enjoyed the post.

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